Found April 07, 2012 on Fox Sports North:
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The Minnesota Twins have seen the good Francisco Liriano, and they've also seen the not-so-good Francisco Liriano. Both sides of the Twins' left-hander made appearances in Saturday's 8-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, but the good Liriano's appearance was nothing but a brief cameo. After a down year in 2011, Liriano had perhaps the most encouraging spring training of any of Minnesota's starters. In seven Grapefruit League starts, Liriano was 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA. Along the way, he struck out 33 batters and surrendered just five walks. The hope was that his spring would carry right into the regular season. For the first inning Saturday, it appeared that may be the case. Liriano breezed through the beginning of the game by striking out Baltimore's Nolan Reimold on three pitches, got J.J. Hardy to strike out swinging on a slider and froze Nick Markakis with a 93 mph fastball to end the inning. But after Liriano's solid first inning, he gave up a home run to Orioles center fielder Adam Jones to lead off the second. "I think it was down and away. I hit my spot with it," Liriano said of the pitch to Jones. "Not much I could do about it. They were hitting the ball very good today. You have to give some credit to them." From there, Liriano's confidence seemed to disappear. The next Orioles batter, catcher Matt Wieters, walked on four pitches. Liriano escaped the inning on a double play, but was roughed up again in the third. Liriano allowed a leadoff single to Ronny Paulino, and Robert Andino followed with a single to left that was mishandled by Josh Willingham. The error allowed Paulino to score for a 2-0 Baltimore lead."They didn't kill the ball off him, but he went deep in counts and they rode some balls through," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Liriano. "He had to battle his way through it. We missed a couple plays and it didn't work out for him. We didn't play well behind him enough, didn't get to some balls and that's the way it went."Later in the inning, Liriano had a chance to throw out Andino at home on a tapper back to the mound by Hardy, but opted to turn a double play at second instead, allowing the run to score. The Orioles added three more runs in the fourth to end Liriano's first outing of the 2012 season. Liriano walked Mark Reynolds on four pitches and gave up back-to-back doubles to Andino and Paulino. A bloop single by Reimold drove in Baltimore's sixth run of the game, the last Liriano would allow."You know coming into the game it's going to be a battle with (Liriano)," said Markakis, who finished 3-for-4 with a run and an RBI. "He is what he is. He's got good stuff. We waited out some pitches. We had a lot of full counts, got on base and we got timely hitting when we needed it."Five of the six runs Liriano allowed were earned. He finished with four strikeouts and walked a pair of batters while giving up eight hits in four innings.Liriano was 9-10 with a 5.09 ERA and a career-high 75 walks last season after a much better 2010 in which he was 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA in 31 starts. There was one major highlight to Liriano's 2011 season, however, when he no-hit the White Sox despite walking six batters. That outing showed Liriano's potential. The Twins thought it was back with Liriano's solid spring. He certainly has the talent to be Minnesota's ace, but still is searching for consistency.Just two games into a 162-game season, it's far too early to overreact to Liriano's rough first outing. But the Twins will certainly be hoping to see more of the good Liriano the rest of the way."I was looking forward to this game today," Liriano said. "My game plan didn't work, so I've just got to keep working and hopefully next time will be better."Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.
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